Today sees the arrival of Vaisakhi, a festival to mark the start of the Punjabi New Year as well as 1699 the year when Sikhism became a collective faith.

It is celebrated every year on either the 13th or 14th April. This year it falls on the 13th and, like so many things, has been severely curtailed by the pandemic.

Vaisakhi would normally be celebrated on the streets up and down the country called the ‘Nagar Kirtan’, where thousands of Sikhs would come together singing religious hymns and lots of food stalls giving out free food. It’s a time of happiness, fun and love. Many Sikhs will use this year to adapt their celebrations following the three principles of Sikhism: Naam Japna (mediate on god), Kirat Karmai (earn an honest living), Vand Ke Chakna (selfless service).

Families will be getting together outdoors.

Selfless service is one of the key principles of Sikhism

There has been a lot of fuss over relaxing restrictions for Christmas last year, but many festivals such as this one, go under reported. Asian Standard spoke to members of the Sikh community to find out what Vasaikhi means to them and how it feels to not be able to celebrate like they normally would.

So much to miss this year

“There’s so much to miss this year. The Nagar Kirtan, the akhand paths, the atmosphere at the Gurdwara. I spent a lot of my time at the Gurdwara during the Vaisakhi period and there was always so much excitement. It feels like a big part of my life is missing. However, I am glad that this year at least we can go to the gurdwara, not like last year when we were in full lockdown.”

Karanjeet Kaur, Chair Trustee at Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara in Bradford

It will be sad not to celebrate Vaisakhi

“It will be sad not to celebrate Vaisakhi with the rest of the Sikh sangat openly for the second year but hopeful that this year will be the last one of this kind. We will try to make the most of it despite this with keeping in touch with family and friends.”

Ramen Haire owner of Core Chartered Accountants:

Spending time with family and friends

“Being the second lockdown Vaisakhi it’s a time we have the opportunity to spend more quality time with our immediate family, to reflect on what choices, sacrifices and transformations I can make to become the best version of myself, for myself, for my family and wider community.”

Rashpal Singh Sagoo from Leeds

We will be baking cakes instead for the homeless

“Every Vaisakhi we used to go to the Gurdwara. We listen to the Path and Kirtan. We do the sewa to changing the chola of Nishan Sahib. We have langer there. We meet and great others. The main part my kids like when we change the cloth. We have to block the road and Police is there too.

“But this year because of Covid 19. We will be celebrating at home. We will be doing the worship and baking eggless cakes with my kids to give to the homeless. If they allow us, we will go to the Gurdwara. Hopefully with Guruji’s grace everything will be fine before next year and we all can celebrate with everyone.”

Harneet Kaur Marwaha from Northampton

Virtual Kirtan at home

“After the announcement that restrictions would ease in time for Vaisakhi, we were relieved by the prospect of being able to celebrate with our family with it being the most auspicious occasion in the Sikh Calendar. Kirtan has always been integral to the way we honour and say thank you to God. It helps us as feel connected with each other and with our faith. The children particularly missed out on this during the first lockdown, so we were delighted to be able to make this more special and memorable this year by doing Kirtan in the garden with their grandparents.”

Sangeet Kaur Sehmi, from Northampton

This year’s festival might not be everything people hope, but Sikhs up and down the country will still do everything they can to make it special. Hopefully by this time next year life will be getting back to normal. The next Vaisakhi celebration will be one where they are united with the rest of the community again.

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